Concord has sent promos of their second installment of the Keepnews Collection a reissue program featuring new liner notes from Orrin Keepnews. I find it interesting what's being chosen for re-issue, and I wonder if these are Keepnews's choices or Concord's or a little bit of both. This round of reissues is: Bill Evans - Everybody Digs Bill Evans (1958), Chet Baker - Chet (1959), Jimmy Heath Big Band - Really Big (1960), Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - Caravan (1962) and Flora Purim - Butterfly Dreams (1973).
I have only listened to the Baker and Evans discs so far. The sound quality seems good and each disc contains a "bonus" track recorded at the session. I'm not familiar with Baker's music apart from his playing with Gerry Mulligan, and I found him to be in the Miles Davis bag, playing a lot of ballads and slow tempoed tunes. For the most part here the music is composed of mild standards, not really my type of thing, but I guess if you're looking for a late-night type of romantic LP it might fit the bill. The most interesting track for me was the slow-motion version of "How High the Moon". I'm so used to hearing that song played at a fast tempo that it took me a minute to recognize it. Keepnews pulls no punches in the liner notes about his dislike for Baker, so that's what made me wonder whose choice this was. Apparently Baker's legend as a "wounded soul" still sells a lot of units, so there you go. The Evans album is quite recognizable and has been reissued may times. He's teamed up with Sam Jones on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums for a serene set of standards and originals. One of his most beautiful compositions "Peace Piece " is here as a timeless example of piano mastery. There is a ton of Evans available, but if you are not familiar with him this makes for a good place to start. This group doesn't quite get the respect of the LaFaro/Motian unit to follow but these musicians swing strongly and quietly and support the music in a fine manner.
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